Cycling on the roads these days can be perilous. With angry drivers bandying around the term “cyclo-fascists” and the BBC producing documentaries which do nothing more than agitate the situation, it’s not hard to understand why people sometimes have a misinformed attitude towards those on two wheels. God damned road tax evaders.
Often the problem can extend a little further than people’s intolerance – indeed, it can be a question of ignorance of the correct way to deal with a cyclist in the road. Currently, British Cycling are supporting calls for harder tests with special cycle awareness sections as standard, and an online petition has been created, with those signing agreeing that the driving theory test should include the cycle awareness section.
Whilst the driving theory test has some optional cycling awareness questions, not everyone is tested with these and the practical driving test does not have any particular focus on cyclists. If drivers are not trained to be aware of cyclists and how to drive around them they will retain the lack of awareness after they pass their test.
For me as a cyclist who is currently learning to drive, the problem is clearly a lack of sufficient education, and there is no doubt that this petition will do some good. Currently, 15,000 signatures agree. Last year, 112 people were killed on British roads, with about 50% of that a result of a collision with a motor car. Insurance companies are quick to point out that newly passed drivers are at a higher risk of having an accident, with one in five new drivers being involved in a crash within their first year of driving. Accidents involving British Cycling’s Shane Sutton and hero Bradley Wiggins show the problems are often not a fault of dangerous or inept cycling as certain road users might suggest. Following the most successful year ever for cycling in Britain, 2013 looks set for more people to be taking to their bikes, with the potential risk of surpassing the death count of 2012 – in itself, a five-year high.
If a change to the driving theory test saves the life of just one cyclist every year, as a result of increased awareness from a new driver, then this effort is and will always have been worth it. Change now will not affect the millions of drivers on our roads, but it just takes a small change to bring about radical differences in public masses.
The petition is here. It takes twenty second or so to sign it – please give it a read and if you agree with making roads a safer place for everybody that use them, add your name.